Every day at the Tolland Family Resource Center may be a play day, but each board game and arts and craft has a serious goal.
"Play develops childrens' imaginations, gives them confidence and gives them the ability to self-entertain," explained TFRC Coordinator Laurel Leibowitz. "Playing promotes problem-solving. It really is development for their future."
Leibowitz and the 32 staff members at TFRC offer a huge variety of services out of Birch Grove Primary School to give Tolland's youth a brighter future and to better the lives of Tolland families.
The list of TFRC services seems endless: daycare, playgroups, before and after school programs, kindergarten enrichment, preschool, parenting classes and networking and training sessions for other local preschools are just a few of the services offered by the program.
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But for each program, the focus is on social, hands-on play that stimulates the imagination and builds life skills. The resource center intentionally restricts the use of video games, iPads and other technology in favor of games, hikes and more traditional activities like their recent gingerbread house night.
"They get to try old-fashioned things that families don't always have the time to do," Leibowitz said. And she and the staff can see the positive effects of the play. "What we see is kids having time to communicate. They problem solve and work together," she added.
The center is funded through a state grant and has been providing support for families and early education in Tolland for the last 12 years.
According to the Connecticut General Statute authorizing the centers, certain services such as the daycare, school readiness and teen pregnancy prevention must all be provided or referred through another agency for the resource centers to qualify for funding.
Leibowitz, who has been with TFRC for about a year now, emphasized that the center exists not only to provide early childhood education, but to also bring families, businesses and schools together to build a stronger Tolland.
"I want the families to know that they are their child's first teacher, and we want to support them in every way we can to help them enjoy their child and to let them grow," Leibowitz said.
Residents looking for more information on TFRC programs can visit the center's website, email Leibowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (860) 870-6754. Registration for winter playgroups is open through the end of next week and enrollment for next year's preschool and school age care has begun. Financial aid is available based on need.